Beltline will yield to downtown streetcar, sit out upcoming federal funding round

Move could help streetcar project win highly competitive grant

When applications for a sought-after pot of federal cash start flooding the U.S. Department of Transportation's mailbox on Monday, the Beltline won't be among them.

In a move that could give the downtown streetcar project a better chance at becoming a reality, project officials say the proposed 22-mile loop of parks, trails and (one day) transit won't compete for an upcoming round of federal funding. (UPDATE: Here's the official statement released yesterday by Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit entity tasked with planning and developing the $2.8 billion project.)

The feds plan to dole out as much as $600 million to transit projects later this year. The program, known as TIGER II, is designed to help build transportation projects that will help create jobs, improve walkability and spur development during the down economy. Applications are due Monday, Aug. 23.

Beltline officials considered asking for $13 million to beef up the project's trails and nearby streetscapes. Among the proposed fixes: extending the West End Trail from I-20 to Washington Park and from Lawton Street to University Avenue. They also wanted to use the funds to stretch the Eastside trail from DeKalb Avenue to Glenwood Avenue. Streetscapes and connections along the Beltline's eastern segment would've been improved as well. A petition drive to show federal officials the high level of local support for the project garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

But officials say they've decided not to submit the application — in part to give the downtown streetcar a better chance to secure much-needed federal cash.